The waypoint for the channel entrance at Bimini was set on our chartplotter on the flybridge and the navigation computer at the lower helm station. Because of the strong north-setting current in the Gulf Stream, it was necessary to set a course well south of our destination. To determine what that course should be, we would have to calculate the speed our boat would be traveling, the strength of the current in the Stream and how long we would be exposed to the current. On this day, the west wall of the Gulf Stream was about 5 miles off Key Biscayne and we would stay in it until we entered the channel into Bimini. Doing all of the calculations for the average speed across the Stream put our course at about 125 degrees magnetic. The strength of the current isn't the same all the way across. Close to the Miami coast it would start out around 1.5 knots. In the center of the Stream, it would run about 3 knots, and as we approached Bimini, it would drop to about 2 knots, then down to about 1.5 knots as we made the entrance channel. The heading worked out to be just about perfect. The conditions turned out to be very good for a trawler crossing. Winds were light at about 5 to 8 out of the south and we had swells at 2 feet with the occasional 3 footer. Within 20 miles of Bimini, the swell pattern switched from the east to the south and put them right on our beam. Fortunately, once we were in deeper water, the swells were long and gentle. But it still made for the occasional rolling for a few hours. All in all we rate this crossing about an 8.
We first sighted the buildings on North Bimini about 12 miles out. Within 7 miles, we could start making out some of the land features, and within 5 miles, we could see both North and South Bimini, but no sign of the buoys that mark the channel entrance. We had received some info from the folks at Bimini Big Game Club to look for the condos and head in for them. These particular condos are townhouses with red tile roofs and easy to find as we approached. There is an entrance to Bimini Sands Marina between the condos and their entrance channel lines up with the two outer red and green buoys. Several boats were coming out of the channel, making it easier for us to figure out the layout. The buoys finally came into sight and it was a happy afternoon for the crew of Beach House on her first Gulf Stream crossing. The boat, not us. The current Lat and Long as of today just west of the buoys (things can change) is 25 42.671' N and 079 18.522' W. The channel requires frequent dredging and it was just finished in the last several weeks. We happen to hit the entrance at low tide and saw 9.7 feet over the outer bar. Once inside the channel that leads up to Alice Town and North Bimini, the depths were 15 to 17 feet.
Bimini Big Game Club Marina so we could clear in at Customs and Immigrations. We had been in contact with them several times during our waiting period in Florida and they were very helpful and understanding when weather delayed our departure over and over. The Customs House is under renovations so Customs has an office at the marina, making checking in easy. At 2:30 in the afternoon, we were comfortably tied up at the dock and really enjoying the moment. Could it really be that we finally arrived after waiting and waiting? But the wait was worth it after a very uneventful crossing. I took the ships papers and forms we needed to the Customs office. The marina provided the forms for us as soon as we were tied up and secured. Check-in took about 10 minutes at Customs and then a short walk of a few blocks south to Immigrations took another 5 minutes. By this time, new arrivals were lining up behind me to go through the check-in process. The Immigrations Office is in a small pink building next to the Tourist Office at the town dock. There is a small craft market there making it easy to find.
how to do this in a previous post. We carry an unlocked GSM phone and using a prepaid sim card, we now have a Bahamas telephone number. The sim card for the data stick turned out to be more work. We purchased the card and were told it was activated. When we returned to the boat it wouldn't connect. We took both the computer and the wifi stick to the BTC office the next day and sorted it out. When using the USB stick, it asks for an access point, user name and password - a few things that the young lady at the BTC office neglected to provide the first day. In addition, even though we paid for the sim card and $30.00 for a months worth of data, we still had to add funds to the data plan online in order for it to be activated. So we added $5.00 to the account, input the needed login information and all was right with the world. The ladies at BTC were helpful and courteous.